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Book description

In this intimate account of the remarkable cultural flowering of Elizabethan England, Susan Watkins takes us to the heart of one of historys most extraordinary tales: how Queen Elizabeth I set out to capture the hearts of her people. In plays and pageants, in cameos, medallions, and portraits, in great country houses, their furnishings, and their gardens, the royal image was specifically tailored to evoke devotion. To love Elizabeth was to love England, and the queen personified both an era and a national style.It had begun precariously: the birth of Elizabeth, on September 7, 1533, instead of a male heir was a bitter disappointment to Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Watkins paints a brilliant picture of young Elizabeths life, punctuated by insecurities and conspiracies, and endangered during the period of rule by her Catholic half-sister, Mary, whom she succeeded in 1558. It gave her an enduring sense that to remain on the throne she needed the love of her people, a romance kept alive by continuous regeneration in many forms -- virtuous queen, chaste goddess, mighty imperial monarch.The author skillfully recreates court life, not only in the great palaces along the Thames from Greenwich to Windsor but also in the nearly sixty royal houses that were Elizabeths inheritance. An important part of the spectacle was the royal progress to the great country houses of her subjects, from Sir Francis Willoughbys fairytale castle, Wollaton Hall, to Lord Burghleys Theobalds. An Elizabethan house was not just an architectural achievement; it was often the literal embodiment of a relationship -- real or wished for -- with the monarch.Throughout this book, the inspiredphotography of Mark Fiennes, together with portraits, paintings, tapestries, and personal objects of the period, gives the perfect visual expression of the nations evolving love affair with its queen. Little wonder that Elizabeths personality, so vividly memorialized here, captivates both the imagination of Hollywood and the tens of thousands of visitors to the surviving monuments of her era.

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